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When Oil Revenues Dry Up, ISIS Adapts Quickly with “Religious Tithes”

The Islamic State (ISIS) has been making up for its oil profit losses by increasing the taxes it levies on the people living on territory it still controls.

Terrorism experts Jean-Charles Brisard and Damien Martinez from the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism concluded in their report on Wednesday that "ISIS's military defeat is not imminent... as things stand, ISIS economic collapse remains some way off in the mid-term."

At $2.4 billion in revenues during 2015, it made $500 million less than the year before, according to the researchers’ figures. Despite the drops – reportedly caused by the international military coalition’s attacks on the group’s oil strongholds, “ISIS remains the richest terrorist organization on the planet.”

Enhanced extortion tactics used by the group have led tax revenues to increase from $360 million in 2014 to almost $800 million in 2015, the authors said.

Related: Iranian Oil Is Disguising A Significant Decline In Global Production

Evidence of the group’s failing financial state has been mounting as it cut fighters’ salaries in half for a second time earlier this year.

The U.S. military has said ISIS has lost control of roughly 40 percent of its territory, though eight million men, women and children still reside in occupied lands.

Those who remain face an array of taxes, all marketed as zakat, or tithings. There is a 10 percent income tax, up to 15 percent in business taxes, five percent fees for cash withdrawals and up to 35 percent in taxes on essential drugs.

Christians must also pay the jizyah tax, which ensures their protection from ISIS’ enforcers.

"It's really an adaptive organization," Brisard told CNNMoney. "What strikes me is the fact that they're clearly behaving as managers, not simple looters. They really have budget requirements, and they're compensating."

Related: The Offshore Oil Business Is Crippled And It May Never Recover

Researchers estimate that Turkish buyers have been conducting business with organizations in ISIS controlled territory, but the United Nations has not been able to approve an embargo on countries or individuals known to work with the terrorists, Brisard said, noting that the situation is “absurd.”

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In the meantime, Oilprice.com sources on the ground in Turkey caution that much of the reports claiming that Turkey is complicit in smuggling ISIS oil is Russian propaganda. It is also the result of skewed information on smuggling chains that have existed long before the emergence of ISIS and not through major Turkish suppliers or the government.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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